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As Long as We Remember...

January 20, 2012

Katherine Straightens the Mess

Roy Meachum

Reporter Katherine Heerbrandt earned my professional admiration over the long years in Frederick; we were colleagues on the local newspaper. Her most recent journalistic coup must not pass unremarked upon.


Tuesday’s column (“Afzali Crashes Congressional Primary”) is entirely indebted to Katherine’s reporting. It would have been completely impossible for most local journalists to keep a straight face while the first-term delegate bragged she was the “only” Republican hope to hold on to Roscoe Bartlett’s Capitol Hill office. Put simply, I would not have been able to conceal my reaction to her outlandish innuendo, amounting to garbage.


In the same Frederick Gazette, the respected reporter managed to straighten out the picture for the April 3 Sixth Congressional District GOP Primary. Having reinforced their Maryland dominance, Democrats proceeded to gerrymander the state to their advantage; Republican outbursts were somewhat muffled by what happened in next-door Virginia. As the dust settled, lines were drawn to ensure Representative Bartlett would not easily retain his tenure; it would no longer be a “gimme” seat for Lincoln’s party.


The congressman must blame himself for the initial reaction; he maintained curious silence. More than Mother Nature, American politics abhors a vacuum. Into the breach, his 10-year chief of staff, Harold “Bud” Otis, rushed and hinted he was looking into entering the race, lining up potential support; when the congressman learned the fact, Mr. Otis was out on the street.


Katherine managed to elicit from the former staff chief that Mr. Otis would not, in the final analysis, challenge his ex-boss.


With what? Since Roscoe Bartlett resuscitated his campaign, his longtime backers reenlisted, not unanimously but mostly. There was little left for the ex-employee. Politics is a matter of loyalty, given at a price. In Capitol Hill halls, the debts are paid off. At most, “Bud” Otis existed as a shadow of his employer. I complained for several years – including directly to Mr. and Mrs. Bartlett – how his staffer was acting in a way to subvert the boss.


Also in the identical weekly edition, we learned that, after all, Alex Mooney would not run against his former employer, despite $100,000 raised for that express purpose. When he graduated Dartmouth, the former state senator gravitated toward his fellow conservative, working for him in several capacities. It was hardly secret that the young man’s ambition was focused on taking over from the Sixth District congressman. He even entered into a foolish, confusing charade with the U.S. representative’s son Joe; I dubbed the pair “the Katzenjammer Kids.” The apparent intention was to display his closeness to the Bartlett family.


Meanwhile, on his own, Senator Mooney gathered in boodles of funds from extreme right-wing groups; he was more radical than his state District 3 constituency, as shown when he was dumped in favor of ex-Democratic Frederick City Mayor Ron Young; not by a large margin, but decisively. Out of legislative office, he won the unpaid position of chairman of the state’s Republican Party – which he still holds. 2012 is not 2010 when GOP members were part of the political tidal wave that swept Democrats before it.


Anyway, there is a delicate matter of Roscoe Bartlett now enjoying his 10th term; his seniority and conservatism demands obeisance from his fellow party members and he generally succeeds. There are exceptions who believe “Bud” Otis proved how passé the Capitol Hill representative has become.


Not all of them are Democrats.


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
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